Mumbai: The Bombay High court on Friday asked the Maharashtra government to inform the steps it has taken to safeguard public interest during the ongoing indefinite strike by its employees demanding restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), even as the government asserted that the strike was illegal and it was all the efforts with the available staff.
A bench of acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne said: "We want to know what steps the state is taking to safeguard the interest of citizens."
Indefinite strike by state govt employees
Lakhs of employees in Maharashtra have been on an indefinite strike since March 14, 2023, seeking restoration of the OPS, which had been scrapped in 2005 by the then state government. The HC was hearing an application filed by advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte seeking directions to the striking employees to immediately withdraw the ongoing strike. Sadavarte had earlier represented hundreds of employees of the striking Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation employees against the government.
Advocate general Birendra Saraf said that the strike was illegal and that the employees neither have fundamental nor moral right to go on strike. He also assured the court the state machinery was doing everything possible to contain the situation with the available staff. He said that there was 40-50 per cent attendance in government offices.
The judges, however, asked the government to categorically say what steps it was taking to ensure that basic amenities and essential services are provided to the public.
Justice Gangapurwala said: “Our anxiety is that the common citizens should not be deprived of essential service. Common citizens should not suffer. We want to know what steps the state is taking to curb this menace. What are the modalities and steps the government is taking to ensure basic amenities and essential services are made available to people.”
Class 10 & 12 board exams
The application pointed out that the timing of the strike overlapped with the upcoming Class 10 and 12 board examinations. The bench asked Saraf what the government was doing to handle such a situation.
The AG replied: “From our side, we are trying our best. Teachers are participating to ensure board exams are not affected..” He added that most of the people striking are in fact governed by the old pension scheme.
Sadavarte said that in a democracy everyone has a right to protest, but here because of teachers and doctors joining the agitation, students and patients are suffering.
The HC has asked Sadavarte to add the government employees’ union as respondent to the plea and kept the matter for hearing on March 23.
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